All too often I see agencies and consultants chasing the latest thing. They forget the basics. Often, they try to master the advanced before even fully learning the basics. This needs to stop.
Here are three proven strategies I see agencies screwing up left and right.
1. Guest Posting
This has become the gold standard of SEO for most agencies and it’s easy to see why. Guest posts are a reliable way to build links, and it’s far less awkward to offer a guest post on a blog than it is to straight up ask them for a link. But most agencies fail at guest posting for one of these reasons:
- They guest post only to build manual links from the article
- They guest post on low quality sites
- They don’t guest post for referral traffic
- They focus on excessively narrow niches
- Their guest posts are near copies of the articles they link to
- They build links exclusively through guest posts
If it’s not immediately obvious why some of these are wrong, it might help to start by taking a look at our guide to advanced guest blogging at Moz. If that’s too long a read or it still isn’t obvious, here are the problems with those approaches:
- In Google’s ideal world, all links are given editorially. Any link that you built to your own site can be considered part of a link scheme if you are doing it to manipulate rankings.
- Low quality sites are always at risk of being demoted algorithmically, causing you to lose the search authority you spent all that time building.
- Referral traffic generates leads for your business and can also become a source of secondary, purely natural links.
- Narrow niches don’t bring much opportunity for referral traffic, and “gray hat” SEOs tend to focus on building links from tighter niches than more legitimate marketers do.
- Whether algorithmically spun or hand re-written, only unique content offers any long term link value.
- If all of your links come from guest posts, your link profile is artificial, no matter how you slice it. There’s no doubt that guest posts on authoritative blogs say something about your genuine authority and influence on the web, but if you’re missing genuine editorial links and other types of links, something’s going to seem a bit off about your site to Google in the long term.
If guest posts alone represent an artificial link profile, what can you do to diversify other that produce stellar link bait? The answer is outreach, and most SEO agencies are well aware that successful link building requires contacting people beyond just doing guest post requests. Unfortunately, yet again, most agencies are approaching outreach the wrong way by:
- Offering nothing of value to the contact
- Making no effort to establish authority or social proof
- Spending no time familiarizing themselves with the site or the person behind it
- Never asking for a commitment, or asking for too large a commitment
Successful outreach is built around 6 solid principles of influence, established by marketing and sales scholar Robert Cialdini:
- Reciprocity – Give and you shall receive. People are much more willing, sometimes even compelled, to do something for you if you start by doing something for them.
- Commitments – Even very small commitments cause people to become more willing to take on larger commitments later on. It’s more important to get them to commit to something, anything, than to worry about exactly what it is they are committing to. It’s also easier to commit to something in the future than to do something right away.
- Authority – People are far more likely to trust you if you have credentials to point to.
- Social Proof – We are more inclined to trust people and organizations if we see that others trust them, especially if we see that people like us trust them.
- Rapport – Put simply, we’re more likely to do something for somebody if we like them. It’s important to establish commonalities and admiration during outreach for exactly this reason.
- Scarcity – Finally, people are more likely to take interest in an opportunity if it seems rare. Unfortunately, scarcity is overplayed thanks to “LIMITED TIME ONLY!” hype. Consider this one playing with fire. Only use it when you feel an opportunity is genuinely scarce, and after mastering the other 5 principles.
Outreach can also fall apart due to nothing more than bad project management. Invest in project management software such as WorkZone if you can. Either way, it’s just as important to empower your outreach team as it is to keep an eye on how they interact with prospects.
3. Keyword Targeting
This is an old SEO standby, and frankly it’s been seeing a lot less respect than it deserves lately. Here are some common mistakes agencies keep making with this one:
- Focusing too much on building up domain authority without leveraging the keyword opportunities that they have today
- Copying keyword phrases directly into the title tag without any CTR or viral considerations
- Worrying about how often and where to use the keyword within the content
- Failing to identify the value and opportunity-cost of the keyword
I see the first one everywhere these days. Agencies are getting much better at building up domain authority rather quickly with link bait and top-tier guest posts. What they aren’t doing is taking advantage of the domain authority they already have to draw traffic.
If your domain authority is in the twenties, you should already be able to capture keywords that send 500 or so visits per month each. Most agencies seem not to realize this, and seem to think that if they just keep building up their domain authority they won’t need to target keywords at all. It’s true that building up domain authority is a great way to capture long tail traffic, but targeted, relevant pages are still the cornerstone of any truly successful SEO campaign.
Measurement breakdowns are another big problem here. All too often, agencies just go straight off of the metrics offered by Google Analytics, without using any internal models or tests to predict keyword value and the cost of keyword acquisition.
When it comes right down to it, much of SEO comes down to mastering the basics. Get the basics right, and it will be hard to fail.